Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Brief Clarification

I topped the last post with these two quotations,

“What human beings seek to learn from nature is how to use it to dominate wholly both it and human beings. Nothing else counts.” – Adorno and Horkheimer, The Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments,(DoE).

“For just as the popular mind separates the lightning from its flash and takes the latter for an action, for the operation of a subject called lightning, so popular morality also separates strength from expressions of strength, as if there were a neutral substratum behind the strong man, which was free to express strength or not to do so. But there is no such substratum; there is no ‘being’ behind doing, effecting, becoming; ‘the doer’ is merely a fiction added to the deed—the deed is everything.”- Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, (GoM).
I accept the insights from both sources as true and I'm combining them to see what I can do.

In the first quotation, Adorno and Horkheimer make an evaluation of what human beings seek. They claim that the only thing that human beings value in their natural science is a knowledge of how to dominate nature. They say nothing else counts.

In the second quotation, Nietzsche makes an evaluation of what human beings are. He claims human beings are what they do – that the deed is everything. To be is to do. There is no substratum – certainly no neutral substratum—free to be and yet not to do. Human beings are not separated from what they can do – they are what they do. Human beings who dominate nature and other human beings are this domination….There is no neutral substratum beneath this domination which holds in reserve an unrealized or diverted (or separated) power to be free.

To dominate is to exercise a kind of power…It is this power. The question then becomes, I think, of what value this power has for us, and who are we to value this power, who are we when we be this power?

Following Nietzsche, I am trying to block the impulse to think that we are something other than what we do, (something other than the power we express, than our will to power.) I am excluding the possibility that we are somehow at our core loftier than our actions reveal, that we were pursuing freedom and autonomy and mysteriously became diverted, alienated, and self-estranged through extrinsic factors ( and from what mysterious source would such extrinsic factors come from in this case?) acting on this core, this neutral substratum subsisting beneath our action.

I am striking upon a certain existential strain within Nietzsche which seems remarkable to me to be hitting upon now, because I have been calling upon Nietzsche more from the direction of what I thought was a Marxist orientation…I wanted to show that an inability to realize power represents some sort of barrier within materialist thinking which refracts it back into idealist thinking.

I think that our unreflective impulse is equate domination with power, to assume that to dominate is to be powerful. We would be hard-pressed to imagine some other action as powerful which was not a dominating action; we would also assume that the only way to not dominate, in other words to avoid domination, would be to not be powerful—to renounce power.

However, I think that we need to consider that domination is only one form of power, and perhaps a weaker one…One valued by a weaker form of life. Who has the power to LIVE as if domination is the value of a weaker form of life? Anyone who doesn’t, IS this weaker form of life…


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